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Sports Market

GoSports aims to create role models in Indian sports, says CEO Deepthi Bopaiah

With plans of creating a sporting ecosystem based on excellence, GoSports Foundation wants to #changethescript - CEO Deepthi Bopaiah tells us more.

Deepthi Bopaiah with GoSports Foundation supported athletes Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Kidambi Srikanth and Payas Ja
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Deepthi Bopaiah with GoSports Foundation supported athletes Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Kidambi Srikanth and Payas Jain (Souce: GSF)

By

Sohinee

Updated: 2021-12-30T16:25:55+05:30

Laced and stringed with a plethora of glittering stories of success spread across both Olympic and Paralympic sports, in many ways, the year of 2021 has been a glorious one for Indian sports. A key player behind the success achieved lies the GoSports Foundation, a non-profit organization that is vested in promoting the Olympic and Paralympic athletes by virtue of various athlete scholarships and knowledge-building programs.

To cap off this brilliant year that has been steeped with success, the GoSports Foundation organized their 7th Annual Sports Awards Night at the Sofitel BKC Mumbai on 17th December 2021 which was the milieu of top players across a variety of sports. The Bridge, who came on board as the media partner for the event, had the opportunity to interact with the incredibly dynamic Deepthi Bopaiah, the CEO of GoSports Foundation that supports the likes of Paralympic gold medallists Avani Lekhara, Sumit Antil, table tennis sensation Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, World Championships silver medallist Kidambi Srikanth to name a few.

Having grown up playing basketball and tennis, much of Deepthi Bopaiah's life values stem from sports itself. Quitting her job at the bank sector, Deepthi stumbled across GoSports 12 years back to follow her passion, little knowing how much of a life-changing event it will turn out to be, not just for her, but for the entire sporting ecosystem. With the likes of Rahul Dravid, Pullela Gopichand having been associated with the organization as advisors, the Bengaluru-based GoSports Foundation has only found inspiration from them to grow from strength to strength. Also guiding the Foundation to climb the ropes of success are Steering Committee members - Managing Trustee Nandan Kamath, Trustees Thomas Ollapally and Abishek Laxminarayan, Head of Sports Science John Gloster, and Head of Strategy Unmish Parthasarathi, who have stood strong beside the company and navigated it through all kinds of waters with their expertise.

While the hype in India has always been over-fixated on cricket, the limelight on Olympic and Paralympic sports was a measly, temporary, short-lived one and that narrative required a change. Deepthi, with her vision to #changethescript with the GoSports Foundation has been a trailblazer in the current sports set-up of the country where through the GoSports Foundation, she has been able to help over 200 athletes and has been involved in the journey of 50 Olympians and Paralympians as well. Being involved in this mission have been other names as well like the IndusInd Bank, Aditya Birla Capital, Sony Pictures Networks India, AT&T India, Infosys Foundation, Dream Sports Foundation, and Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports who gave further fuel to the dreams of GoSports Foundation's initiatives towards Indian sports.


The pursuit of excellence in sports

Deepthi Bopaiah

It isn't a secret that 2021 has been one of the greatest that India has seen and reflecting on that, Deepthi mentioned, "Sport has the power to bring people together - it is a matter of national pride to unite and cheer for our athletes. For us, 33 of our athletes were in Tokyo across the Olympics and Paralympics, so it was a great moment," Bopaiah recalled, remembering the medal shower that took place throughout the year.

Founded with the vision to achieve excellence in sports and drive a social change, the GoSports Foundation is ultimately focussed on the betterment of the athletes. "While we're thinking of getting athletes to achieve their potential (winning at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and ultimately, at the Olympics), I think it's also a lot beyond that," Deepthi clarified.

"It's about creating role models for Indians. So, if you have to be a role model, your sport will take you to one level where people will be inspired, and they'll congratulate you. But if you have to have a legacy of your own, you have to stand for something and you should be something much more than your sport and beyond your sport as well," Deepthi painted out the desired picture GoSports aims for.

"You have to really cherish excellence, and you have to be excited about that journey of excellence. That's what GSF is about – we're using sports as a vehicle for excellence. For us, [winning medals] is a great outcome we work towards but that's not the only thing. Because at the end of the day, you don't want to have a gold medallist who cannot survive in the real world," the CEO categorically put forth.

Thomas Ollapally (left), Deepthi Bopaiah (centre) and Nandan Kamath (right), with the President's National Award for sport - the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar Award, given to GoSports Foundation

But coming from a banking background to the world of sports to follow her passion and being a woman in India at that must not have been an easy task. Asked about how she made a place for herself in this niche male-dominated sector, Deepthi agreed, "Yeah, I think sports administration in India is completely run and managed by men. I was [in] one of those meetings in the government offices and there were like 15-20 people and I was the only woman there," Deepthi recalled.

"Age also doesn't help you sometimes. I think what helped is the minute we started putting out our proposals, when we started showing the quality of work, they knew you meant business. I think it's very important to just say that, to be given a voice, and to just be able to share what you have on your mind. And growing up, I've never had these issues where it's a boy, it's a girl, because we've played sports. It's very different I feel, but coming into this world of administration, it was slightly challenging, I would say in the start, but I think the minute you showed what you could deliver and what you brought to the table, I think all changed," Deepthi explained, proving once again how grit and determination are the key tools to overcome gender battles.

But the roadblocks are several to overcome but Deepthi has always been up for challenges and therefore she has remained undaunted throughout. "I think what I was [also] able to bring is the whole empathy side of it, and I think women naturally bring that. If you use it to your strength, you can just really catapult it and move forward because the minute you build a relationship, and you're able to connect to that person, I just feel that you're able to get a lot of work [done]," she reasoned.

The need for CSR involvement to better the future of sports

Rahul Dravid (left) and physiotherapist Niranjan Pandit at the 2017 Athlete's Conclave


At the GoSports Foundation, which functions based on a lot of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to garner funds to support the various athletes on their journey, it is incredibly important that more people from the corporate set-up come in to help in this process. At the GoSports Foundation, athletes are welcomed to apply for the various scholarships and based on their applications, an interview is done and after that, the athlete gets selected for a particular programme catered for the different kinds of athletes.

"Behind the success of every athlete, there is an entourage that does everything possible to provide the platform for the athlete to succeed. The Foundation's support structure for the athletes, across all programmes, constantly adopts the latest innovations in the sporting world, to provide a platform where talent can meet opportunity," Deepthi Bopaiah explained.

With the right amount of funds, donations, and help from the various sectors of society, GoSports Foundation has the potential to continue changing the narrative for Indian sports. 2021 was surreal in many ways as a lot of hands joined together to help the Foundation in supporting the Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including the government, TOPS and various other stakeholders.

"Indian corporates are coming forward - the base of events can be increased and not just medals. 2022 is going to be a big year - there are big performances expected as it will be a crucial year for Paris qualifications, Deepthi noted, speaking positively about this development that the Olympics and Paralympics performance has brought.

"We're really looking forward to Paris but there is also the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the various World Championships. There are a lot of new talents who are very inspired and very excited to go to the next level. We plan to work with existing talent and scout new talent at the same time," Deepthi mentioned, ever dedicated to the goal to #changethescript, before signing off.

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